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EARLY START

President Trump Criticizes Prime Minister Theresa May While Visiting the UK; Protests Greet U.S. President in the UK; Strzok Hearing Turns into Political Spectacle; Trump Tweets Very Nice Note from Kim Jong-un; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President's visit to the UK.

The president starts his first official trip to UK by slamming the prime minister. President Trump says trade deals are in jeopardy because Theresa May didn't take his advice on Brexit. Tens of thousands are expected to protest the president's visit.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN ANCHOR: Sparks fly for 10 hours as FBI agent Peter Strzok fends off accusations of bias and members of Congress fend off each other.

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Michelle Kosinski.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. It is Friday the 13th. Fitting for the political environment and the diplomacy overseas. 4:00 a.m. in the East. 9:00 a.m. in London. We are live right now this morning with pictures of the president aboard Marine One headed from Winfield House to the Sandhurst Military Academy. And boy, has this trip made many headlines and it's just beginning.

First the pomp, now today the politics for the president in the UK. Expect a rough road ahead made bumpier by combative comments the president made to "The Sun" newspaper. The interview went online just as last night's gala dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May ended.

KOSINSKI: He said May ignored his advice on Brexit strategy. A lot of criticism in this. And he said her proposal to maintain close ties to the European Union would jeopardize any future trade deals with the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they do a deal like that, we'll be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK. So it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Extraordinary criticism of a foreign leader during a trip to their own country and just the latest example, the president playing nice in person then getting tough in public.

For the latest, let's bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson live for us in London this morning.

Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, good morning, Dave. I'll shout so you can hear me. You're obviously seeing Marine One taking off with the (INAUDIBLE) society here out of Winfield House, the residence of the U.S. ambassador here in London.

This was not what Theresa May invited President Trump here to the UK for. She wanted to help forge that special relationship, explain to him why Britain is a good business partner for the United States. That it creates more than a million jobs in British companies in the United States at the moment. All of that is going to be lost. She potentially could pay a very high political price for the shots that he's fired at her. Not only criticizing her handling of Brexit saying that it potentially makes, you know, the British people poorer because they can't do business in a substantial way with the United States in the future.

But that he's also saying that her former foreign secretary who quit this week, Boris Johnson, would be a good prime minister. What kind of message is that? It seems to say that she wouldn't be a very good prime minister, although we know from Sarah Sanders, President Trump's spokesperson, that that isn't the message that President Trump is trying to send. That he does believe that Theresa May is a good leader.

However, in the current political climate in Britain where Theresa May has had two Cabinet ministers, two senior Cabinet ministers quit this week is under huge pressure within her party about the way she is handling Brexit. This kind of political pressure that President Trump seems to be applying to her here is really potentially going to have a consequential knock on effect for her.

It's also opened another couple of old political fights with the mayor of London saying the mayor of London doesn't tackle terrorism properly and isn't handling violent crime in London properly either. None of this is welcome news here at the moment.

BRIGGS: No, it is not. Nic Robertson for us in London this morning. Thank you, sir.

President Trump hop scotching all over the UK but one place he's carefully avoiding is Central London. That's because some 50,000 protesters are expected to speak out against him there. Starting shortly before they do, the infamous Trump baby balloon is taking to the skies.

For more, we turn to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh who's live in London for us.

Nick, good morning. What are you seeing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Extraordinary now. They just finally reached the bit of inflation of the end now of the baby blimp as it's known. You can't just see on the other side the mobile phone which he's holding, his favorite weapon of war, Twitter, often emerging from that.

But I got to point out the irony of all of this. He's talked about in "The Sun" interview as being one of the signs that he's unwelcomed and quite clearly the London mayor's decision to allow this balloon to fly about half an hour from now for an hour and a half up above parliament has clearly caused Donald Trump to be quite vocal, dismissing Sadiq Khan's record he says on terrorism and immigration, even though the central government that sets those policies.

[04:05:17] But this will be up for an hour and a half. And it's frankly the closest likeness of Donald Trump will get to parliament at all during this visit. The remarkable scene, frankly, of him being kept away from the institutions of royal governments or government itself here. So a crowd gathering around here. One very vociferous pro-Trump supporter in a Trump 2020 T-shirt. But mostly here people in overalls, holding up various different placards in opposition to Trump obviously, and the phrase, "Trump Babysitter," on those who are in fact behind this particular blimp.

But you see now it's just being begun to be released. Let's just sort of stay with this while they begin to release it. And I have to say it is quite staggering that, A, this was permitted. It is clearly as you see it the likeness of Trump as a baby in a nappy, a diaper. And one of the organizers here has said quite clearly that they believe the interview given in "The Sun" today is just another example of how Trump frankly is often infantile and how this represents that view often.

But this is just the beginning of a day of protests that are going to start in Central London, in Oxford Circus, and then move down towards here, towards Parliament Square, in Trafalgar Square, possibly 70,000 people. And that's an extraordinary sight you have here because while normally you'd expect a lockdown to enable a sitting U.S. president to visit parliament, instead we have a lockdown because of the protests frankly which of course they're not to be able to reach the parliament. Instead, we have this extraordinary inflatable Donald Trump likeness hanging over the sort of seat, some argue, of Western democracy. An extraordinary sight, indeed.

Back to you.

KOSINSKI: It's going to be a long day. I don't know what's weirder, Nick. Seeing that balloon inflate up behind you or seeing you instead of being live from Syria.

BRIGGS: Who's normally in war zones around the world.

KOSINSKI: Yes, live in front of a big baby balloon.

Reporter: I think the interview with "The Sun" was the weirdest. But yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KOSINSKI: Good luck out there, Nick. Thanks a lot.

So joining us this morning again live from London, "TIME" magazine's international editor Dan Stewart.

Good morning, Dan.

DAN STEWART, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, TIME: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

KOSINSKI: It seems like the president wanted to make headlines on this trip wherever he went. And he is certainly making them.

STEWART: He really has. On every single newspaper this morning they lead with this interview in "The Sun" where he makes really an unprecedented entry into domestic politics. This is something that world leaders typically don't do. Right? They don't come to other people's countries and insert themselves into the biggest political story of the day. But that's what he's done here within hours of sitting down or touching down, rather, in London. So it's really quite incredible.

BRIGGS: All right. So that "Sun" interview so the president slams Theresa May's Brexit strategy. He elevates someone who could challenge her leadership in Boris Johnson saying he would make a great prime minister, has what it takes it, has the right attitude, says this could threaten a U.S.-UK trade deal. What is the impact on all of this with our closest ally?

STEWART: I mean, it's tricky to say. You know, I think the people who will be very pleased about this are the hard liners in Theresa May's Cabinet. She already had massive divisions there. This is going to make those worse. This is going to empower people like Boris Johnson perhaps. I mean, I think a Trump endorsement, he'll somewhat enjoy that, but Trump is not a terribly popular figure in the UK. So I'm not sure that will do great things for his own political future.

I think also Boris Johnson's resignation earlier this week was greeted very poorly. I think people felt that he sort of stepped away from a challenge if you like. And so that also probably won't help his political future right now. But I -- yes, I think in general this is exactly what May, in particular, doesn't need at this moment in time.

KOSINSKI: Yes. And I'm hearing from diplomats there that they almost expect this to be something similar to what we just saw at NATO with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Criticizing Germany in public when the cameras are on, but then behind closed doors, when they have to meet he's friendly, he's talking up the relationship. Now he has to sit down, you know, for meetings and lunch with Theresa May.

Is there an expectation that that's likely to just be, you know, all friendliness and smiles and things mended after that interview?

STEWART: Well, look, the special relationship is very, very important to the UK. For years it is the way that the UK has sort of propped up its presence on the world stage if you like. So I don't think they want to do anything that would threaten that. I think May and Trump have I think only 10 minutes together in the room before the other diplomats join them. [04:10:06] I don't expect this to be a big confrontation like you

might see in the film "Love Actually" where the prime minister played by Hugh Grant confronts the U.S. president. I don't think this is going to be quite -- I think you're going to see a display of (INAUDIBLE) when they come out for a press conference.

KOSINSKI: There are similarities, though. There are some similarities.

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: There are.

STEWART: Well.

BRIGGS: Kudos to you for the "Love Actually" reference.

KOSINSKI: Love that.

BRIGGS: So one thing we know that the president is looking forward to, yes, he went abroad to pick fights with our allies, but he's really looking forward to this tea with the Queen. How do you expect that to go?

STEWART: I mean, the Queen has done this a lot of times. I think she's met with every single president since Eisenhower, perhaps.

KOSINSKI: Yes.

STEWART: And perhaps even more so she knows exactly how to cope with people. She is the master of small talk. She will probably want to steer clear of politics. The royal family is very, very careful about not being seen to address politics. So I'm sure she will ask him lots of nice questions about his family and his businesses, and that sort of thing. I think we're unlikely to see any diplomatic spats break out between the Queen and Donald Trump.

BRIGGS: Yes. We are, though, seeing these protests all around London. And you mentioned that the president is not extraordinarily popular there. What are the people there protesting? What angers them so about President Trump's presence in the UK and his policies?

STEWART: I think it's along the same sort of lines as you saw very shortly after he was elected. It a lot of people taking issue with his perceived attitude to women, his perceived attitude to immigrants, to Muslims in particular.

I just -- on my way to the studio this morning, I saw lots of far-left newspapers being handed out. So I think that's probably the tone that you're going to see. But I think they promised it to be a sort of carnival atmosphere. So you will likely see a lot of quite colorful signs and that sort of thing.

I don't think it is going to be, you know, passionately bitter. When George W. Bush came here in 2003 and there were large protests, you know, those were very infused by the war. But I think this is going to cover a wide variety of different issues that Trump is seen to stand for.

KOSINSKI: Yes, And I'm hearing that there were some noisy protests outside where the president was staying last night. But probably not as large as we could see today.

Thanks so much.

STEWART: Not at all. Thank you very much for having me on.

BRIGGS: Dan Stewart from "TIME" magazine. Thank you.

All right. Ahead, a very contentious day as embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok testifies before Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER STRZOK, FBI: I don't appreciate what was originally said being changed.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That's one of the more tame parts of a very contentious day on Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:17:01] KOSINSKI: OK. So if you missed Peter Strzok's testimony on Capitol Hill, you missed a spectacle. Even by congressional standards. The members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees teamed up to rip into the FBI agent and each other for just about 10 hours. Republicans have been using Strzok's text exchanges with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page to promote claims of an anti-Trump bias at the bureau. But Strzok was having none of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STRZOK: At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. And the suggestion that I, in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI, would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn't happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Agent Strzok went on to tell lawmakers a sensitive and credible source told the FBI about a Russian offer to help a member of the Trump campaign. Strzok says he could have leaked the information to hurt the Trump campaign, but never considered it.

There were plenty of low moments in the hearing like this one when Congressman Louie Gohmert brought up Strzok's affair with Lisa Page.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: And I can't help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about Lisa Page.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Mr. Chairman, it's outrageous.

GOHMERT: The credibility of a witness is always an issue --

(CROSSTALK)

REP. BONNIE COLEMAN WATSON (D), NEW JERSEY: Shame on you, Mr. Gohmert. Mr. Chairman, please.

CICILLINE: You know, Mr. Chairman, this is intolerable harassment of the witness.

COLEMAN WATSON: What is wrong with you? You need your medication.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI: Ten hours of this. Remember, 10 hours.

BRIGGS: It's awful.

KOSINSKI: So Lisa Page will meet with members of Congress behind closed doors this afternoon. She defied a congressional subpoena to testify on Wednesday.

BRIGGS: "The New York Times" reports the White House is overriding intelligence concerns and expanding access to intel about a confidential source. That source was used during the Trump campaign. Officials including the head of the FBI and the director of the National Intelligence have expressed concern about expanding access fearing for safety of the sources. It's not clear if the president personally authorized the change.

KOSINSKI: A devastating 2017 hurricane season has FEMA admitting its response capabilities were stretched at every level. This season included Hurricanes Harvey in the Gulf, Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico. FEMA just released a 65-page report calling 2017 unprecedented. FEMA admits it drastically underestimated the devastation Hurricane Maria would unleash, yes, on Puerto Rico, hampering the reaction. The agency registered 4.7 million households for disaster assistance between August 25th and November 30th alone. That's more than Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Sandy combined.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the president says he got a very nice note from Kim Jong-un.

KOSINSKI: But who hasn't?

BRIGGS: Yay. Not me. Have you?

[04:20:02] KOSINSKI: Tons.

BRIGGS: Doesn't mean anything if Pyongyang doesn't show up to a critical meeting. We are live in Seoul with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSINSKI: No notable signs of progress on the negotiations with North Korea. But the president still releasing what he calls a very nice note from leader Kim Jong-un. In the letter, Kim calls the president "Your Excellency" multiple times and describes their summit last month, quote, "the start of a meaningful journey." Noticeably absent from that very nice note any reference to denuclearization.

So now we have CNN's Andrew Stevens live in Seoul with more.

[04:25:04] So it's sometimes tough to know whether we're progressing in this or whether we're going backwards.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: Yes. Absolutely. And if you look at what's happening on the ground, it does certainly look like it's not going forward. Let's put it like that, Michelle. And let's say that's a fairly modest view as well.

Interestingly, Donald Trump, you mentioned there, he's saying that great progress is being made in these denuclearization talks. But on the ground, that looks to be an entirely different story. There was supposed to be a meeting yesterday between the U.S. and the North Koreans to discuss the remains of U.S. servicemen killed in the Korean War being brought back to the U.S. Indeed this was one of the key agreements that Kim and Trump did sign off on when they met on June 12th.

And that was supposed to be a meeting to really get momentum going on, getting the remains home. That meeting didn't take place because the North Koreans didn't turn up and the U.S. only was informed about midday by the North Koreans that they wanted a meeting on Sunday.

Now Mike Pompeo had earlier said that it looked like the meeting would be on July 12th, which was yesterday but obviously that didn't go ahead. So it's just another sort of thorn in the side of these negotiations they do seem to be going nowhere at the moment. They've got -- we got very little out of Pyongyang meeting which Mike Pompeo met the number two in North Korea, including not getting a meeting with, number one, Kim Jong-un himself, who was apparently touring a potato farm and a potato factory when Mike Pompeo was in the -- was in Pyongyang. So very difficult to see any progress whatsoever at this stage -- Michelle.

KOSINSKI: Yes. One day you get stood up. The next day you get a date. Thanks, Andrew.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the president starts his trip to the UK with some less than kind words for Theresa May. Their meeting today, his visit with the Queen, and 50,000 protesters expected on the streets.

These are live pictures from London. We'll have the latest for you next on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)